One thing that Oregon Ducks head coach Dan Lanning has been incredibly good at during his two-plus years of being in Eugene is recruiting. In his first full recruiting cycle, the Ducks had a top-10 ranked class in the nation, and Lanning followed that up by signing the single-best class in school history this past year.
It’s pretty clear that Lanning knows what he’s doing when it comes to acquiring talent. But what separates the great coaches from the good ones is what you’re able to do with that talent after they get to your program, and how a player actually produces on the field, rather than just what their recruiting ratings say.
This past week, Lanning talked about some of his recruiting strategies in an interview with Ryen Russillo on The Ryen Russillo Podcast, part of the Ringer Podcast Network.
“There’s not like a hard set of rules; I think everybody has to check that talent box,” Lanning said. “Something that was said to me early in my career that I really value — Coach Saban, I think it may have come from — but in the NFL, you get one first-round pick. In recruiting, if you’re willing to work, you can have as many first-round picks as you want.”
The Ducks have played with several first-round picks on the roster over the years, and Lanning has had his fair share as well. While everyone knows the likes of Marcus Mariota, Justin Herbert, Penei Sewell, and Kayvon Thibodeaux, Lanning brought Christian Gonzalez to Eugene — a first-round pick in 2023 — and players like Bo Nix, Troy Franklin, and Jackson Powers-Johnson have the potential to be first-round picks in 2024.
Though it is an exhausting facet of the game, and many coaches tire of the constant travel and effort that it requires, Lanning knows how important recruiting at a high level really is.
“You have to out-work the competition, you have to be in the conversation, but that’s the lifeblood,” Lanning said. “You can pretend to be a really great coach, but you’re a really good coach when you have really good players.”
So what separates the really great players from simply the good players? That’s where an eye for character makeup comes into play, rather than just an eye for talent.
“Every guy who steps into our program is really talented,” Lanning said. “They were all the best player on their high school team. Every one of them was really good, and the separating factor is the things I talked about with Bo Nix. It’s the heart, it’s the chip on their shoulder. It’s what’s going to make them work a little bit harder than the guys that are around them. And that’s the part that I think you have to identify in recruiting to say ‘Okay, this guy’s got a chance.”
So far, it appears that Lanning has been very successful when identifying the players who have that extra chip on their shoulders. We will watch to see how that continues going into the future while the Ducks continue to pull in highly talented players from both the high school ranks and the transfer portal.